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tomtractor

How reliable is the Kohler 8 HP. K series

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I am looking to purchase an older Wheel Horse tractor with mower deck. Selling my Toro 12-32 and using the older WH for mowing and stuff. I want an older machine with a very reliable motor. I am good with painting but not motors. Thus I want to get maybe a B 80 with a K series 8HP. I just don't know how reliable it is. What motor is a proven winner. Reliable. Also if anyone has an older WH with 37 or 42 inch deck that runs great. Please send me email or something. thomas_rettig@hotmail.com. I live in Central Mass.

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I have a 8hp Kohler, and it's amazing! Tons of power, and doesn't seem to let me down. I wouldn't shy away from one.

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The 8hp Kohler is a very reliable motor as are just about any of the K-series motors. The most important thing is to try to get a feel for how well the machine was taken care of. Make sure the engine is cold when you go to check it out. Fire it up and look for any signs of smoke when you throttle it up and ride it around.. If it smokes she is gettin worn.

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If cared for the K181 (8hp) and even the K161 (7hp) are like Swiss watches IMO.

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As long as it has not been abused, the K181 is an excellent engine. As far as proven winners, almost any K-series Kohler will fill that order.

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The tractor I am looking at starts ruff. It takes a few seconds to start. No smoke and warms up nicely. It is on a 1974 B80. Supposedly the motor was rebuilt 3 years ago. What are the typical problems with these motors? The tractor has been restored and painted years ago. The tractor is in good shape. How much do you believe it is worth? Central Mass.

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I would check the points and spark plug. Then remove and clean the carburetor. If you don't have a copy of the Kohler service manual, download one from the files section, and follow the instructions on adjusting the carburetor. Also, be sure that you have fresh gas in the tank. That engine should be an easy starter.

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A Kohler K series is by most standards a bullet proof engine. If the engine was cared for properly it should last 30+ years. Well that many years in average residential use. If the motor was used commercially than take off a few years. The K's and the Magnums are very forgiving motors. They usually will keep going when proper maintenance is lacking. They are very forgiving when wear starts to set in. With that being said there are some drawbacks that any other engine will have. They don't like to get hot. If you don't clean the air screen they get hot and then problems start. They like to have their valves adj. They like to have the carbon cleaned out of the head at proper intervals. This is just my opinion but I think you can't go wrong with a cast iron Kohler. As far as reliability and ease of maintenance you won't find one better. I personnel have several sizes of Kohler's on Wheel Horse and my go to tractor is always an 8hp. It gets done what I want usually and is a whole lot cheaper to operate compared to the larger engines.

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I have a '73 8hp that I have worked pretty hard this spring. it appears to be all original. it is 40yrs old and still going strong.

points and condensor,are probably the only thing that will ever give you any trouble over the years. mine starts with just a touch of the key.

if it runs, it is worth buying

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It has all been said above, but I will also say I have a couple 8hp kohlers in the mid 60's that I love and will never sell. They are the shorter frame tractors and I really like the look and the way they just keep going, hardly ever needing anything. The price is always tricky, but as stated above if it runs and the price is where other similar tractors are, and you are looking.........

This is just one example of pricing problems. When I first got into really liking WH, of course I started searching for a RJ, well in ME. they were hard to come by for me. I watched for anything close and finally came across a guy with a bunch of WH tractors FS and I showed up looking at a 416? and he had an RJ, you have to understand, this was not well thought out and the economy was a little better(who am I kidding-I had the BUG). Any way this tractor was rough and I paid 750.00 for a non-running rough cond RJ.........Shortly after I saw a REALLY nice restored one go for a little less then that. The long and short, I ended up selling that RJ for like 200 to a guy just last fall in the same cond. as i bought it.

There are just so many variables in price, I might say 300 and a guy 2 states over, or just starting could say 700? Anyway, good luck!

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A K-181 is a good investment, I doubt you'll ever be disappointed with one. :icecream:

Only you can decide what you're comfortable paying for one. :dunno:

If you do decide it's right for you, remember... :wwp:

:WRS:

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I want an older machine with a very reliable motor. I am good with painting but not motors. Thus I want to get maybe a B 80 with a K series 8HP. I just don't know how reliable it is.

Maybe you should get a somewhat newer machine with a Kohler Magnum. Same tough cast iron block but with an electronic ignition. Less stuff to mess with (points, coil, condensor) on the motor this way. Of course that means that the overall tractor will have more wiring but you said said you weren't a motor guy. You might be able to find a machine with less hours on it than something from 1974.

Maybe a 308-8 or a 310-8?

Mike...........

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my 2 cents is the 8 hp/K181was one of the best sellers for WH throughout the years. at my first WH show in PA for every massive D-200 or 520 etc...there were tons of sturdy 8 hps!!! My Dad bought my B-80 and the sales brouchure had the 10 hp A-100 circled and the B-80 circled. Thanks Dad, for picking the Kohler!!!

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I just finished rebuilding my 44 year old Kohler K181. It's the second rebuild but here's my point. It's 44 years old and been used every year since then except for the last year and a half that the tractors been being restored. Any of the Kohlers are a great choice, especially the 8 horse. If your prepared to have to do a rebuild at some point (same for any motor, some more often than others) an older Kohler is a still a good choice.

I should add that this was my fathers tractor and his second Wheel Horse. It's certainly earned its keep over the years.

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If it starts up w/ no smake as you stated, I wouldn't hesitate. As far as common problems, if it doesn't smoke now on startup it probably was rebiult 3yrs ago and no need to worry. Good luck either way.

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Thanks you for all you info. I will see what's for sale at the Colchester Ct. tractor show this weekend.

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My dad had a C81 growing up and that thing wouldn't die. My brother and I mowed about a 1/3 acre with it for months with little to no oil before it finally died. And then he rebuilt it and it ran great for a few more years before the body let go and he upgraded to a 416-8. Awesome motors

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I persoannly have not been impressed with my K181's and I own 3 of them. Both wheel horse ones developed knocks, but I caught them before they blew. Crank was nice and clean. No idea why this happened. They were out of spec for .010 rods and the machine shop had to fit the rods.

The other one on the generator is nice a quiet and has ultra low hours. So low I can still see all the factory hone marks on the cylinder. But it still burns oil. In 4 hrs it will deplete its supply. Maybe it was never broke in properly.

However my K241,K301's were original and never had any problems.

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I think they are easily one of the best small engines ever made. Probably the worst K181 I have encountered is the one I am repairing right now. It only died after 40+ years of use because somehow the lower end of the dipstick fell in it and trashed up the insides. (It wasn't my engine.) But even so, there was no damage done to the block, crank or bearings and the engine is totally rebuildable. Had this been an aluminum block engine, it would have been trashed beyond repair. Every other K181 I have owned or used have been just like all the other K series single cylinder engines I have come across, as reliable and smooth running as a small engine can get. Even if it has to be rebuilt, a Kohler K series or Magnum single cylinder engine is probably the most economically friendly engine to have over the long haul, that on top of how well they run.

-Mark-

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I have only one K-181 and so far I am not a true convert.

It runs strong and smooth when it is running but I let it get low on oil a couple years ago and I am still dealing with the fallout. It seems if the rod comes apart, chances are the camshaft will be broken as well. I was astonished to find that the engine was actually running with a broken camshaft, but it is still a pain to have to take it all apart again.

Maybe after I get everything repaired correctly it will give me that warm fuzzy feeling I have been missing toward this engine.

Love the tractor though!

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Still, even if the engine breaks I say that short of machine shop work anyone with basic mechanical aptitude can do the rebuilding work on a Kohler K series single and it doesn't cost a fortune. You can even re-bore the blocks and rebuild these engines multiple times! What other small engine can you do that with? You can't blame a problem with the engine due to your own lack of attention or maintenance. There are plenty of K series engines that have been running 40+ years un-rebuilt without any magic put in to them. Change the oil every 20-25 hours and run it normally (that is not continuously beating the jeepers out of it at plow days and pulling events) and it will keep on going.

-Mark-

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The only time my 1979 C-81 has not run right is when the points were out of adjustment and it lost some power.

It is a nice quit, yet powerful, gas sipping engine.

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For my money, the K-Series are hands down the best tractor engine going. As you have heard testimony, they can be rebuilt several times, and they are easy to rebuild I know of pullers who really beat on them and have rebuilt the same engine 5 or 6 times. I have seen plenty of them rebuilt that didn't even need an over size piston. You will also hear over and over of 30 - 40..50 year old engines running strong!

Add to that, once you get to the 10HP and over engines, most of them can be bored to the next size piston, and then any of them can be sleeved back down! So a 10HP can be bored 3 time (.01, .02 & .03 over ) , then bored to 4 different 12HP SPecs, (Std,.01,.02&.03) Thats 7 rebuilds on a single engine that is known to last 30+years on a build.....so the engine can last over 210 years in theory?!?!?

So if you take into acct all of these things:

Good Power, reliable running, virtually unlimited repair-ability, & low cost?

How can there be a better engine?

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However I see better reliability in the 10+ HP engines. Usually they just start to burn oil and need to have new rings. The 7 & 8 HP engines I think are overworked in wheel horse / john deere / cub cadet as almost all I have run arcoss are knockers. My k161 is silent but burns oil. Its on a generator and never touched. My k181's knocked and burned oil until they were rebuilt. I went with new rods and 0.003" over piston. They really needed to be done at 0.010" pistons but I wanted to aviod the $60 boring charge.

My 875 tractor with hyrdo and 32" deck really makes that 8HP work its tail off. Crappy sizing in my opinion. The hydros in my opinion should come with 12hp engines minimum.

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That's just another thing to keep in mind, that although the K181 puts out an honest 8 HP, its just an 8 HP engine. Good for lawn mowing and light snow pushing, towing the yard cart, etc. Save the ground engaging attachments like plows and tillers for the bigger engines, and yes hydro transaxles too. I agree the smaller HP Kohlers tended to get more abuse, which can be more work during the rebuild. Although the WH 867 I'm curently working on is a tough little 8 HP lawn/garden tractor, it wouldn't be nor would I expect it to be a match for bigger GT's like my Cub 682 though I have no doubt the 867 will putter around my yard again doing mowing and light work until I'm pushing up daisies.

The best part about the Kohler K series cast iron line singles is the quality and durability of the engines is exactly the same at all the HP ratings. A K341 probably didn't cost Kohler a whole lot more to make than a K181, the lesser HP engines weren't "chapened down" versions of the big engines, rather the big engines grew from the basic smaller HP designs. Kohler's KT series twins on the other hand were a cheaped down lightened version of their previous all cast iron block twin cylinder designs, and Kohler paid for it dearly.

-Mark-

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